Email Print Comments192 By Pierre LeBrun
The Chicago Blackhawks made a blockbuster trade with the Thrashers on Wednesday, the Stanley Cup champions moving Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager, Brent Sopel and a prospect to Atlanta for a first-round pick, a second-round pick, prospect Jeremy Morin and veteran forward Marty Reasoner, a source told ESPN.com.
The first- and second-round picks that Chicago get in the deal were acquired by Atlanta in the trade that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey last February.
The prospect Atlanta is getting from Chicago is Akim Aliu.
The deal is pending a call to the league for approval. The Blackhawks have not confirmed the trade.
"It is what it is," Byfuglien said on "The Afternoon Saloon" on ESPN 1000. "It's part of the job. You're not going to stick in one spot the whole time so I've got to go."
The Blackhawks were in dire need to get rid of salary as new contract extensions for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith next season put them in a major salary cap crunch. The Hawks save just over $5 million in cap space with the trade.
Byfuglien has one year left on his contract paying him $3 million, which is also his cap hit. Sopel has one year left on his deal at $2 million although his cap hit is $2.3 million. Eager is a restricted free agent who earned $965,000 this past season so retaining his rights would have cost at least that much. The only salary the Hawks get back is Reasoner, who has one more year left on his contract at $1.2 million and his cap hit is $1.15 million.
The Hawks will still have decisions to make on whether to keep the relatively high salaries of forwards Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg.
Byfuglien was a major force in the Hawks' run to the Cup, switching from defense to forward to fill needs with the team. His work in front of the net was a big part of dispatching the Canucks and Sharks in the postseason.
He battled Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger continuously in the Cup finals. He broke through with two goals and two assists in a Game 5.
Byfuglien finished with 17 goals and 17 assists in the regular season last year. He had a career high 19 goals in 2007-08. Eager posted seven goals and nine assists in 60 games. Sopel was only a plus-3 for the season but was a big part of the Hawks' penalty kill, especially late in the regular season and the playoffs.
Reasoner had four goals and 13 assists, his 11th in the league.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com